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Nik Taylor wrote:
>Christophe Grandsire wrote:
> > but those disappeared without a trace when PIE people appeared and
> >'invaded' Europe.
>
>Just as later, Latin wiped out most of the languages of Western Europe,
>and then broke up.
>
> > Back in times where human population
> > could be counted in millions rather than billions, even with smaller
> > communities it just seems logical that the count brings fewer languages
>than
> > now!
>
>And especially pre-agriculture, when a group of people would occupy a
>rather large area.  When agriculture began to spread, you had people
>settling down and moving less often, which would tend to shrink the
>average area per language.

According to a book called "Språken och historien" (="The Languages and
History") by Tore Jansson, which happens to occupy ~2cm of my bookshelf,
there where ~10 000 languages spoken around the world at the onset of the
Neolithic. This figure is apparently based on an estimated global population
of around ten million at this time (a figure I've seen in some other sources
too), and an estimate, based on modern and recent hunter-gatherer societies,
that languages of such pre-agricultural groups tend to have something on the
order of a thousand speeches.

Today, ~6000 languages are spoken around the globe, which means that if
Jansson's (gu-)estimate is correct, linguistic diversity has fallen a bit
since the Neolithic Revolution.

(An obvious argument against Jansson's figure of 10k is that in
pre-Neolithic times, hunter-gatherers weren't restricted to rather marginal
areas like they've been in historic times; the resultant higher average
population density therefore possibly may've resulted in larger average
numbers of speakers per language.)

                                                    Andreas

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